Dis­tri­bu­tion hubs power port projects

Ex­pan­sion of Panama Canal pushes Ge­or­gia ports to record year.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - BUSINESS - By J. Scott Trubey strubey@ajc.com

Ge­or­gia’s ports en­joyed a record-break­ing year for cargo in the past fis­cal year, and that growth is a driver for pri­vate in­vest­ment ex­pected to bring hun­dreds of new lo­gis­tics jobs to the Sa­van­nah re­gion.

Fur­ni­ture re­tailer Noble House and home ac­ces­sories seller Best Choice each plan large new East Coast dis­tri­bu­tion hubs near the Sa­van­nah port, Ge­or­gia Ports Au­thor­ity Ex­ec­u­tive Direc­tor Griff Lynch said Thurs­day, part of a wave of new ware­house devel­op­ment there and more broadly across the state since the open­ing of the ex­panded Panama Canal.

State of­fi­cials on Thurs­day also an­nounced plans for ex­pan­sion projects at the Sa­van­nah and Brunswick ports to ac­com­mo­date growth in im­port and ex­port traf­fic since the open­ing of the ex­panded canal.

“As our state’s gate­ways to global com­merce, the Ports of Ge­or­gia are part of the crown jewels of our state,” Gov. Nathan Deal said, ac­cord­ing to pre­pared re­marks, at the State of the Ports meet­ing in Sa­van­nah. “They are a ma­jor com­po­nent to our on­go­ing rep­u­ta­tion as the No. 1 state in which to do busi­ness — a dis­tinc­tion that we have se­cured for four years in a row now and aim to keep. In­deed, the ports are the pow­er­ful eco­nomic en­gines that keep our state econ­omy run­ning so well.”

The state’s ports moved 3.85 mil­lion 20-foot equiv­a­lent (TEU) con­tainer units in the 12 months ended in June, up 6.7 per­cent from the prior year. To­tal ton­nage grew by 8.3 per­cent. The Brunswick fa­cil­ity, mean­while, moved 607,000 auto and ma­chin­ery units.

“We’ve not only had a record year this past year but we an­tic­i­pate that we will have sim­i­lar growth or greater this year,” Ports Au­thor­ity Chair­man Jimmy All­good said in an in­ter­view Wed­nes­day.

In the same in­ter­view, Lynch at­trib­uted much of that growth to the ex­panded Panama Canal. The Sa­van­nah port saw its first 13,000-TEU ship in May and since that time the port is now see­ing ships up to 14,000-TEUs about every week.

“We are the largest trad­ing part­ner on the East Coast with the canal,” Lynch said.

The dis­tri­bu­tion cen­ter busi­ness around At­lanta also is grow­ing, Lynch said, cit­ing Wil­liams Sonoma and other re­tail­ers such as Tory Burch that have opened or an­nounced new dis­tri­bu­tion hubs in the At­lanta area.

As a re­sult, the GPA is con­sid­er­ing buy­ing land in north­east Ge­or­gia for an­other in­land port to serve the grow­ing 15-county area sur­round­ing Gainesville.

Lynch said if the au­thor­ity moves for­ward, a land sale could hap­pen by the end of the year.

“We don’t have a done deal but we feel very good about this,” he said. “This is a part of the state that is ex­plod­ing in growth, both with peo­ple and cargo.”

To keep up with de­mand, the state and the ports au­thor­ity has a num­ber of other ex­pan­sion projects un­der­way or on the draw-

ing board.

Among these are the dredg­ing of the Sa­van­nah River chan­nel to ac­com­mo­date larger ves­sels. The cost of the project has climbed to nearly $1 bil­lion.

State of­fi­cials were dis­mayed in May when the U.S. Army Corps of En­gi­neers, the fed­eral agency tasked with over­see­ing the project to deepen Sa­van­nah’s har­bor, put less over­all money into the deep­en­ing project than they’d hoped.

Still, other projects also will be key to suc­cess for the ports, of­fi­cials said. These projects in­clude:

■ A $128 mil­lion rail ex­pan­sion on the Sa­van­nah port cam­pus that will help the au­thor­ity handle trains nearly 2 miles in length and po­si­tion the Sa­van­nah port to be able to in­crease its ser­vice to mar­kets west to Mem­phis and St. Louis and north to Chicago and the Ohio Val­ley. Con­struc­tion is slated to start early next year and fin­ish by the end of 2020.

■ Ac­quir­ing new Su­per Post-Pana­max ship-to-shore cranes. Ten are on or­der that would boost the fleet to 36 by 2020 at the Gar­den City Ter­mi­nal.

■ The open­ing of the Ap­palachian Re­gional Port in Chatsworth, an in­land port ex­pected to en­ter ser­vice next year.

■ New truck en­try lanes at the Sa­van­nah port.

■ The state’s planned net­work of road im­prove­ments, in­clud­ing overhauls to the I-16/I-95 in­ter­change, and high­way links to bet­ter con­nect the port to the state’s in­ter­state sys­tem.

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